• Espanyol 3-2 Wolves - Match Highlights

    Wolves moved into the last-16 of the Europa League despite losing 3-2 at Espanyol, easing to a 6-3 aggregate victory over the Spanish side.

    28 Feb 2020, 12:17 CET

    The hosts made four alterations to the team thumped 4-0 at Molineux in the first leg, with Adria Pedrosa, David Lopez, Sergi Darder and Jonathan Calleri all given starts.


    The visitors showed five changes from the side who started the 3-0 win over Norwich City last weekend, with Max Kilman, Ruben Viagre, Adama Traore and Morgan Gibbs-White all drafted in, while Daniel Podence was handed a first start since his arrival in January.


    Espanyol enjoyed the better of the early possession, with former West Ham loanee Calleri seeing a cross-cum-shot fly narrowly wide with 11 minutes played.


    And five minutes later the Argentinian gave the home side the lead as he fired home from close range, with Adria Pedrosa having found time and space to cross from the left.


    However, the lead lasted a little over five minutes before Wolves hit back to equalise, with Podence feeding the ball to Adama Traore, who finished at the second attempt after his initial shot had been blocked.


    The remainder of the first half saw both sides pressing to try and forge further openings, but neither goalkeeper was extended before the half-time whistle sounded.


    Early in the second half Podence showed his quality by driving forward before firing a shot narrowly over the crossbar from just outside the area.


    Shortly before the hour mark Kilman was penalised for catching David Lopez with a high boot and Calleri calmly converted the resulting penalty kick to give the hosts the lead for the second time on the night.


    Gibbs-White was next to go close for the visitors as the game entered the final 25 minutes and 11 minutes from time Wolves made the score 2-2 on the night as Podence crossed to the far post and Matt Doherty made no mistake with a firm finish.


    Substitute Pedro Neto somehow shot wide of an unguarded net late on and that proved costly in stoppage time, as Calleri completed his hat-trick and won the game for the hosts as he was on hand to head home from a cross in from the right.

  • Arsenal 1-2 Olympiakos - Match Highlights

    Arsenal are out of the Europa League after Youseff El Arabi's extra-time volley sent Olympiakos through on away goals in a dramatic finish at the Emirates.

    28 Feb 2020, 10:32 CET

    Pape Abou Cisse had put the Greek outfit ahead in the 53rd minute when he headed home from a corner, and the game went to extra-time, with neither side able to find a way through.


    Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang thought he had done enough in the 113th minute, but Arsenal were left crestfallen as El Arabi wheeled away to celebrate his stunning goal.


    In the first half, Alexandre Lacazette thought he had done enough but his tap-in in the 40th minute was ruled out for offside, with Bukayo Saka setting off too early before his cross.


    Cisse’s header turned the game on its head at the start of the second half when he punished Arsenal for their poor marking from a corner.


    David Luiz and Mesut Ozil were marking fresh air as Cisse raced into the box before heading past goalkeeper Bernd Leno. In the 77th minute, Lacazette should have done better with a low diving header, with the Frenchman only heading past the near post after a dangerous cross.


    Both teams looked leggy and out of ideas in extra time, but Arsenal were given another warning when substitute Georgios Masouras rattled the crossbar after a quick counter-attack.


    He was made to rue his miss when Aubameyang’s overhead kick sent the home fans wild, but the drama was not over in north London. After clearing a corner with a minute to go, Arsenal switched off at the back, and Masouras’ cross to the far post was met by El Arabi who found the bottom corner with a volley.


    The majority of Arsenal’s team looked heartbroken, but there was still time for one final chance, and it fell to their star striker.


    A double deflection in the Olympiakos box saw Aubameyang played in and the Gabon international had the goal at his mercy. He somehow fired wide as the full-time whistle sounded as Arsenal’s Europa League campaign ended in the most dramatic fashion with the tie ending 2-2 on aggregate.

  • Everything that happened during Thierry Henry's first match in Montreal

    We were at Thierry Henry's first Impact match.

    28 Feb 2020, 09:19 CET

    Thierry Henry is attempting to rebuild his managerial career in Canada.
    Here’s what happened during his first home match with the Montreal Impact. It’s fair to say things didn’t go to plan during Henry’s first managerial gig. After joining AS Monaco in October 2018, the former striker lasted 20 stressful games before getting the axe, and was criticised for his unusual style of man-management.
    The most memorable moment of his tenure was when he publicly shamed teenage defender Benoit Badiashile, who had forgotten to tuck in his chair. But Henry is back in the game — albeit a game played on astroturf.
    In November 2019, around 10 months after his Monaco sacking, the former striker joined the Montreal Impact of MLS, linking up with former team-mates Bojan Krkic (ex-Barcelona) and Rod Fanni (ex-France). Henry, who scored 51 goals in MLS with the New York Red Bulls, called it “an honour” to manage the Canadian side.
    On Wednesday night, February 26, 2020, Henry took charge of his first game on (synthetic) home soil, taking on Costa Rican outfit Deportivo Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions League. It was a tense, exciting game, and one that cast the former Renault ambassador in a new light.
    New scenery
    Montreal, for those accidentally thinking of Montreux, Monterrey or Montserrat, is a city in the Canadian province of Quebec. However, the Montreal Impact — along with Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps — play in Major League Soccer, the football league of the USA. (Canada only recently launched the Canadian Premier League, which is growing but yet to attract players of the highest calibre.) In many ways, it’s a good gig for Henry. Montreal is a French-speaking city, and although the Impact are not a major force in MLS, the club has a strong following and has attracted big names in the past. Alessandro Nesta, Marco di Vaio and Didier Drogba have all worn the blue and white shirt. As has Nigel Reo-Coker.
    ? Henry also knows the league, having played in New York for five seasons. But the appointment is surely a bigger coup for club than manager. You can see Henry’s face plastered on bus stops around the city, and the superstar promises major pulling power. In theory, at least.



    • Transfer market

    • Shortly after Henry joined the Impact, the official MLS blog published an article discussing players he could bring in. Suggested targets included Cesc Fabregas, Blaise Matuidi and Dries Mertens — compatriots and ex-colleagues with genuine star power. The reality has been quite different. Since Henry’s appointment, the Impact have lost arguably their best ever player, Argentine playmaker Ignacio Piatti, and signed a mix of Canadian nationals and youngsters. The biggest arrival has been Romell Quioto, a winger with 47 caps for Honduras. In fact, the club’s quota of former Henry team-mates has actually decreased. Bojan and Rod Fanni both once played alongside their current manager, but full-back Bacary Sagna, who lined up alongside Henry for France and Arsenal (during the striker’s 2012 loan return), sadly left Montreal at the end of 2019. Impact, owned by a cheese company, used to sell a Bacary Sagna sandwich. It’s no longer on the menu. The Montreal Impact Bacary Sagna brie sandwich, 2019 season So Henry is either happy to build his team around young local players, or his more ambitious transfer attempts have failed.

    • Big match

    • Either way, it wasn’t going to dampen proceedings at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday night. Nor was the snowfall outside, handily kept off the astroturf by a deteriorating roof that fully encloses the 60,000-seater stadium. The indoor affair, watched by around 20,000 fans occupying the lower tiers, had the simultaneous feel of a cup final and a PE lesson, although the noise — amplified by the lack of open air — occasionally reached admirable levels. This was the second leg of a CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 tie, with the Impact earning a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica last week. The lineup for the home leg contained many youngsters, including Canadian rookies Zachary Brault-Guillard (21) and Shamit Shome (22), as well as an English teenager, former Tottenham academy defender Luis Binks (18). Bojan was the biggest name on the pitch, as other big earners started on the bench. Saphir Taider, the Algerian international midfielder, was one of them, while Argentinian striker Maxi Urruti, a workhorse with a man bun, donned his bib the entire game. But the teamsheet did contain one obvious throwback to Henry’s playing days. 38-year-old centre-back Fanni, who clearly remembers that Henry played with William Gallas during the 2006–07 season, wore the No.7 shirt.

    • Parking the bus

    • The Impact only needed a low-scoring draw to progress here, and you could tell. Goalkeeper Clement Diop started time wasting after 20 minutes, and attacking fluency was at a minimum. That almost cost the home side in the 5th minute, when veteran Saprissa midfielder Christian Bolanos was denied by the quick-thinking Diop. Marvin Angulo volleyed into the side netting seconds later. As Impact struggled to pass the ball, Henry fretted on the touchline, offering more shrugs of annoyance than claps of support. But though his team struggled, they had a golden opportunity to take the lead just before half time. Right-back Brault-Guillard drove forward with a brilliant run and fed Quioto, whose cutback was almost converted by Shome. Saprissa needed a goal to progress and dominated the second half, but chances were scarce. Henry does a very French gesture as Bojan leaves the pitch In the 64th minute, a wayward high clearance looped towards the Montreal technical area. Henry faced the incoming ball, bent forward, and extended his right leg behind him to catch a volley on his heel. He failed to make contact, and the crowd sighed. The other dramatic moment of the second half came in the 89th minute, when Saprissa midfielder Mariano Torres thumped a goal-bound shot from 25 yards, catching the ball sweetly. But Diop pulled off a spectacular save, which prompted the loudest applause of the night. Diop denies Torres, crowd approves Henry’s Impact held on and, despite enjoying just 29% possession over the night, progressed to the quarter-finals on away goals. Va va voom.

    • MLS awaits

    • Henry won’t experience many nights like these. For starters, the team’s Catenaccio on Wednesday — hardly what you’d expect from Henry — was apparently a temporary measure. After the game, the Frenchman stressed that his team had “to play a certain way” given their lack of fitness, and promised that “style will come later.” And on a more practical level, the Impact will play just two more fixtures under the roof of the Olympic Stadium. Once the long Canadian winter is over — Montreal temperatures hit a low of -24°C this month — the club will move to its permanent home, the smaller and mostly open-air Saputo Stadium, complete with real grass. That being said, when the Saputo does open its doors in mid-April, the pitch will look like shit. So Henry has passed his first test as Montreal manager. Next up is the MLS opener on Saturday, and the Frenchman will be hoping to guide his team to their first playoff appearance since 2016. He might need some more old friends to do it, but his home debut has provided reasons for optimism. By Benedict O’Neill




     



    • More from Planet Football

    • 10 ex-Premier League players you might not realise are playing in MLS in 2020 Can you name every player from the USA to score in the Premier League? Remembering the inaugural MLS All-Star game, a most American spectacle The last goodbye: Andrea Pirlo being good, bad & lazy at New York City FC

  • Dyche urging Burnley rising star McNeil to simply ‘smile and enjoy his football’

    The 20-year-old is set to make his 50th Premier League appearance this weekend.

    28 Feb 2020, 09:00 CET

    Burnley winger Dwight McNeil has the world at his feet but must always play with a smile, says his manager Sean Dyche.

    McNeil is poised for his 50th Premier League appearance on Saturday at Newcastle after making his first-team breakthrough last season.

    The 20-year-old is the youngest player since Raheem Sterling in 2014 to make 10 Premier League assists and Dyche can only wonder at where his talent can take him.

    “His future is open to him,” Dyche said. “He’s racking up the games, he’s a young player.

    “I marvel at the ease with which he plays, especially when his shoulders are back and he’s in confident mood and he’s playing with a smile, which I want him to do.

    “We’ll see, but I feel he’s a very top player for his age and a top talent for his age and he should certainly be spoken about as one of the top young players in this country at this moment in time.”

    McNeil made his senior bow in the final match of the 2017/18 campaign and chalked up 25 more appearances in all competitions last season.

    The England Under-21 international has started every league game this season and followed up his assist for Matej Vydra’s opening goal in last week’s 3-0 home win against Bournemouth with a fine solo goal.

    All Dyche asks of the Rochdale-born forward is to relish his rapid rise.

    “The only real pressure on Dwight is to smile and enjoy his football,” Dyche added. “That’s it in a nutshell.

    “It’s the only pressure I’ve put on him. Me and my staff have given him some guidance and some reassurance at times and his fellow players equally.

    “But at his age – he’s rolling round the Premier League and he should be enjoying that, not taking on anything other than just being clear-minded and ready to deliver performances.

    “That’s the message to him. Whether it’s here, in the dressing room or just before the game – get your shoulders back and go and show them what a good player you are.”

    Burnley have put a run of four straight league defeats behind them by taking 13 points from the last 15 available to climb up to 10th in the table.

    Victory at Newcastle – without a league win in four – would lift Dyche’s side above Wolves, who play at Tottenham on Sunday, and Arsenal, who are in FA Cup action at Portsmouth on Monday.

  • Solskjaer hails Ighalo after Club Brugge rout

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described Odion Ighalo as a "natural striker" after the on-loan Nigerian scored his first Manchester United goal.

    28 Feb 2020, 08:45 CET

    The former Watford forward got his name on the scoresheet on Thursday night as the Red Devils thrashed Club Brugge 5-0 to reach the last 16 of the Europa League.
    With Anthony Martial missing out through injury, Ighalo was given his first start since his surprise loan move from Shanghai Shenhua last month.
    The 30-year-old responded with a goal in the first half and led the line well, with United easing to a comfortable victory against 10-man opposition to go through 6-1 on aggregate.
    Solskjaer was delighted with Ighalo’s performance and feels the loan man took his goal well, while also bringing in players around him.
    The United boss said: “I’m very happy with the contribution of Odion, doing what he does. He’s a target man, we can play up to him, he’ll hold it, he’s got Juan (Mata) and Bruno (Fernandes) next to him and you’ve got runners then.
    “I think as a fellow striker I know how important that first goal is. He’s been close a couple of times, you can see he sniffs goals. He wants to be there where it sometimes hurts. That goal, he’s sharp in his head. That’s a natural striker.”
    Ighalo’s fellow January recruit Fernandes showed again what a exciting signing he is, scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot after a spectacular handball from defender Simon Deli, who was sent off.
    The Portuguese midfielder then played a crucial role in the second for Ighalo before Scott McTominay, making a welcome return to the starting line-up after injury, grabbed a third before half-time.
    Two late goals from Fred emphasised United’s superiority and Solskjaer was understandably buoyant as he reflected on the performance.
    The Norwegian said: “I’m very happy tonight. Obviously we’re in a moment now that we rotate a bit, players are getting games, but when you score goals and play like this, you’re going to get more confidence.”
    United will look to take that confidence into their next outing when they make the short trip to Goodison Park to face Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton on Sunday.

  • Ranking Liverpool's 21 Premier League goalkeepers from worst to best

    Often a problem position for the Reds. Not anymore

    28 Feb 2020, 08:35 CET

    Goalkeeper might not be a position that Liverpool have to worry about at present, but they’ve not always been blessed with exceptional talent between the sticks. In fact, it’s often been a problem position for the Reds over the years, and from beach ball calamities to Champions League final horror shows there’s a highlights reel that fans would probably rather not see again. Here’s how we’ve ranked the 21 goalkeepers to represent Liverpool in the Premier League, from worst to best.

    21. Danielli Padelli

    Who? Exactly. Sampdoria loanee, one appearance in 2007. That’s ol’ Danielli Padelli, all right.

    20. Patrice Luzi

    He’s played fewer Premier League minutes than anyone else on this list – just 13. Those came as Liverpool saw out a 1-0 win over Chelsea, following an injury to Jerzy Dudek, back in 2004.

    19. Doni

    Ten caps for Brazil and over 150 appearances for Roma, Doni clearly had something about him but he’d be little more of a footnote at Liverpool. He appeared just four times in the league during his time as Pepe Reina’s back-up.

    18. Brad Jones

    Brendan Rodgers briefly gave Jones a spell in the team, but he couldn’t hold it down. The Australian made 11 Premier League appearances, and conceded 16 goals.

    17. Mike Hooper

    The Hooperman was Grobelaar’s back-up in the 80s, and that continued into the Premier League era. He’d then go on to warm the bench for Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle.

    16. Adam Bogdan

    Believe it or not, the Hungarian was only released by Liverpool in 2019, having originally four years earlier. He only made two league appearances but just seemed pretty happy to be there.

    15. Pegguy Arphexad

    The Guadeloupe-born sticksman played second fiddle to Sander Westerveld, making only two league appearances in three years. In fact, a 16-year senior career at the likes of Marseille, Lille, Leicester and Coventry saw him make less than 40 league appearances in total. To put that in context, Stuart Taylor made more than four times as many appearances. You kind of have to respect that, really, don’t you?

    14. Danny Ward

    Wales international Ward only made two appearances in the league for Liverpool, and three in total, but he earned them a healthy £12million when he moved to Leicester City in the summer of 2018, having built-up his reputation as a solid keeper on loan for Huddersfield’s promotion season. Originally joining from non-league Wrexham for £100,000 in 2012, that’s a handy bit of business all-round.

    13. Paul Jones

    Became Liverpool’s oldest debutant at 36, keeping a clean sheet against Aston Villa. That’s a pretty good 50% ratio, with just two appearances in the league.

    12. Scott Carson

    Carson enjoyed a half-decent career, but he only ever made four appearances in the league for Liverpool and was never going to usurp Reina. Now at the other end of his career, he’s fulfilling the “wait, what, why?” position at Man City, also known as the Richard Wright role.

    11. Chris Kirkland

    Signed on the same day as Dudek in 2001, Kirkland had competition from day one. Suffering from several setbacks, including a season-ending ankle injury in 2002, Kirkland was unfortunate he never really had a chance.

    10. Brad Friedel

    Like David James, Carson and Kirkland, a Premier League stalwart that had better years elsewhere. Friedel made 25 appearances in the league for Liverpool and couldn’t quite hold his place down, but the club might have been better off keeping him and letting him develop. Liverpool might not have believed it when they allowed him to leave in 2000, but Friedel would go on to spend 15 more years at the very top, playing well into his 40s, making 450 appearances between his stints with Blackburn, Aston Villa and Spurs – in many of those years he was a better keep than anyone Liverpool had on their books.

    9. Loris Karius

    You can’t mention Karius without a reference to his costly pair of mistakes in the 2018 Champions League final. It’s rough, especially after his tearfully apologetic reaction, but that’s ultimately a fair reflection of the error-prone German. Still, he did enough to seize Mignolet’s spot as Jurgen Klopp’s first-choice goalkeeper for a short while.    

    8. Adrian

    After joining on a free, Adrian was instantly thrown into the deep end when first-choice keeper Alisson picked up a calf injury. He featured as Liverpool set the pace in the early weeks of the season, and became a bit of a cult hero for his penalty shootout heroics in his first start for the club, the UEFA Super Cup win over Chelsea. The Spaniard looks among the better back-ups of the last 20 years for Liverpool, but he’s fortunate to be behind their best defence and has actually only kept two clean sheets from his 10 Premier League appearances for the Reds. He’ll also be one of just two Liverpool goalkeepers to end this season with a Premier League winners medal. Feel free to bookmark this and laugh at us if we’re somehow wrong.

    7. Bruce Grobbelaar

    Still probably top of the list for Liverpool’s all-time goalkeepers for the honours he won during the 80s, the most successful club in the period in the club’s history, winning six league titles, three FA Cups and one European Cup. But the South African was on the wane in the years of his career that overlapped with the Premier League, and he was ultimately symptomatic of a fading force after 1992.

    6. Simon Mignolet

    The Belgian never quite convinced during his six years with Liverpool, and rarely did he replicate the show-stopping performances of his early years with Sunderland, but Mignolet was still seen fit to make over 200 appearances for the club – 155 in the Premier League – so he couldn’t have been that bad. Might have been a Premier League winner in his first season with the club, were it not for Steven Gerrard’s slip in 2014. He played all 38 matches of that ill-fated campaign.

    5. David James

    It was during his years with Liverpool that he earned the Calamity James nickname, thanks to his frequent blunders. Still, it’s hard to argue that what would follow in the next few years would be any improvement, going on to play at the top level for another decade after he left Anfield, keeping 169 clean sheets in 572 appearances.

    4. Sander Westerveld

    The Dutchman won five trophies in two years with Liverpool, and you can’t really argue with a return like that. But like the man behind him on this list, he was prone to an error, and it times it felt like those trophies were won in spite of him, rather than because of him. The 2001 UEFA Cup final against Alaves was a case in point: Gerard Houllier’s young side might have breezed through if not for a shonky performance from Westerveld. But thanks to him we got a classic 5-4 that went all the way to extra time.    

    3. Jerzy Dudek

    It would be an overstatement to say that Dudek was always reliable at Liverpool, especially during their Premier League struggles in the early noughties. But the man’s penalty saves in the 2005 Champions League final ensures he’ll forever be remembered as a club legend. And that’s fair enough.

    2. Pepe Reina

    The standard-bearer until Alisson arrived, Reina has more Premier League appearances than any other goalkeeper and was often brilliant, especially in his first couple of seasons after being signed by his compatriot Rafa Benitez. He kept 134 clean sheets in 285 appearances in the league. But he started to look a little more erratic in his latter years and departed the club in 2013, originally on loan to Napoli and latterly to Bayern Munich, enjoying a nomadic career at some of Europe’s most glamorous clubs since.

    1. Alisson

    The most expensive goalkeeper in the world for a few days before Chelsea beat it when signing Kepa Arrizabalaga, Brazil’s No.1 has more than lived up to his price tag. Getting plenty of praise for his role in Roma’s run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018, Alisson has kept his stellar individual form going by lifting the trophy a year later with Liverpool. Of the 57 Premier League games he’s played at the time of writing, he’s kept 31 clean sheets, conceded only 30 and lost just once – a massive figure in ending their 30-year wait for league title. He’s not been beyond the very occasional blunder, but he always steps up on the big occasions.

    More Liverpool

    Istanbul, Steven Gerrard and the Rafa revolution – The Broken Metatarsal Can you name every Liverpool player to score in the CL knockout stages? Alisson isn’t just a great goalkeeper, he makes football more entertaining Eight ridiculous statistics from Alisson Becker’s season with Liverpool & Brazil

  • The incredible Xl of Barcelona academy graduates still playing elsewhere

    Barca have produced some brilliant footballers.

    28 Feb 2020, 08:33 CET

    Barcelona are renowned for developing some of the best young players in Europe through their famous La Masia academy. The likes of Sergio Busquets, Xaxi and Lionel Messi have all developed there, but some Academy players have to leave the Nou Camp to build their senior careers. We’ve compiled an XI of the best Barcelona academy graduates still playing today, arranged in a 4-3-3 formation.

    Andre Onana

    Onana originally joined Barcelona as a 14-year-old in 2010 through the Samuel Eto’o Foundation and spent five years at La Masia. The goalkeeper never made a first-team appearance for the club, however, and joined Ajax in 2015 before helping them win a domestic double in 2018-19. “Barca came back for me this summer,” Onana told RMC Sport in 2019. “It’s my home, I was part of that club. They always want one of their own to re-sign. “But it was not the right time to return. Maybe I’ll never get another chance! But it was not a good time to do it this summer.”

    Hector Bellerin

    Bellerin was picked up by Barcelona at the age of just eight but completed a move to Arsenal in 2011 after rejecting a new contract. The Spaniard impressed in their academy before establishing himself in the first team, and he was named as their vice-captain in 2019.

    Marc Bartra

    After progressing through the academy, Bartra was never quite trusted to become a first-choice option and was mainly a back-up for Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. Unfortunately for Bartra, the most abiding memory of Bartra in a Barcelona shirt was him getting burned for pace by Gareth Bale when the Welshman scored his iconic match-winner for Real Madrid in the 2014 Copa del Rey final. The defender joined Borussia Dortmund in 2016 but is now back in Spain with Real Betis.

    Marc Muniesa

    We’re just waiting for Pique to join his next club…

    Alex Grimaldo

    Grimaldo was tipped for a bright future after starring for Barcelona B, but he was never given an opportunity in the first team. After outgrowing the reserve side, Grimaldo completed a €1.5million move to Benfica in 2016 and that proved to be a bargain for the Portuguese side. The 24-year-old has developed into one of the best left-backs in the world and has recently been linked with a move back to Spain.

    Thiago

    Thiago made his first-team debut for Barcelona at the age of 18 and his style of play meant that he was immediately viewed as the natural heir to Xavi. But the midfielder grew tired of waiting in the wings and moved to Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in search of regular football.

    “I have always wanted to play and since that wasn’t possible with Barca I had to leave to find the joy in playing football again,” Thaigo told SER in 2018. “To me playing is more important than winning a trophy. In the end you always ask yourself, ‘To what extent I have contributed to the win?’

    “I will always be grateful to Barcelona, but I left because I didn’t want to be just one of the many.” Despite struggling with injuries, the 28-year-old has had a brilliant career in Germany and is now fulfilling that huge potential.

    Cesc Fabregas

    Fabregas played in La Masia alongside Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi, and the midfielder turned heads with his impressive performances. However, sensing that his opportunities would be limited, Fabregas moved to Arsenal in 2003 and developed into one of the best midfielders in the world in England rather than Spain. His performances saw him return to the Nou Camp in 2011, but he couldn’t dislodge Iniesta and Xavi in midfield. After a four-and-a-half-year spell back in England with Chelsea, the 32-year-old is now playing for Monaco in Ligue 1.

    Andres Iniesta

    The midfielder joined Barcelona at the age of 12 and went on to win 32 trophies during his time at the Camp Nou, including nine La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues. Iniesta decided to leave the club at the end of the 2017-18 season and has spent the last 18 months at Japanese club Vissel Kobe.

    Adama Traore

    Traore was highly-regarded as a youngster coming through at La Masia, and he made his first-team debut aged just 17 back in the 2013-14 season. However, he only made another three appearances for Barcelona and tried to build his career in England with Aston Villa and Middlesbrough before moving to Wolves. The lightning-fast winger has finally added an end product to his game this season, and he has been linked with a move back to Spain. “A return to Barca? I don’t bear any grudges,” Traore told El Larguero earlier this year. “But equally, if Real Madrid called me I would go there too. I was (at Barcelona) for 10 years, and I have very good memories.”

    Gerard Deulofeu

    It’s slim pickings at centre-forward, meaning Deulofeu gets the nod despite being deployed as a winger throughout his career. He made just two appearances in the league for Barcelona between 2011 and 2015 before joining Everton on a permanent deal. After two years at Goodison Park, he returned to the Nou Camp but failed to make an impact and was sold by Barcelona for the second time, joining Watford in 2018.

    Pedro 

    The 32-year-old made his Barcelona debut in 2008 and later formed part of a deadly attacking trio alongside Lionel Messi and David Villa. But Neymar’s performances saw Pedro fall down the pecking order at the Camp Nou, and he signed for Chelsea in 2015.

    More Barcelona

    Ranking Barcelona’s 16 weirdest signings so far this millennium 17 ridiculous Lionel Messi stats after his 1000th direct goal contribution Can you name every Barcelona manager since 2000? Where are they now? Barcelona’s nine youngest debutants since 1990

  • Gossip: Man Utd and Barca in for Liverpool target, City eye £30m Everton star

    Man City are eyeing another Everton centre-back to replace the last one they bought from Goodison Park...

    28 Feb 2020, 08:31 CET

    MAN CITY EYE ANOTHER EVERTON DEFENDER


    Because Pep Guardiola doesn’t trust the last centre-back he bought from Everton, he might go and buy another…


    The Mirror reckons the Manchester City manager is eyeing up Mason Holgate as a ‘realistic target’ for the summer, when he intends to buy a couple of defenders to bolster a rearguard that was paper-thin before it was ravaged by injuries. The report values Holgate at around £30million but Everton are keen to keep the versatile defender. The 23-year-old has a couple of years remaining on his contract and City’s interest could play conveniently into his agent’s hands.  


    SPURS WANTED OUT-OF-FAVOUR ENGLAND CENTRE-BACK


    Everton have already fended off interest interest in another of their defenders from Tottenham. According to Football Insider, Spurs were keen to take Michael Keane in January, which coincides with when the former Burnley centre-back fell out of favour under Carlo Ancelotti. No fee is mentioned but Spurs are said to have watched the 27-year-old very closely In which case, it makes you wonder why they wanted to buy him.  


    WERNER WAITS AS MAN UTD AND BARCA SHOW THEIR HAND


    Across Stanley Park, Liverpool are rather less worried about losing players and Jurgen Klopp is looking forward to a summer when he can slurge while wearing a Premier League title winner’s medal around his neck. Timo Werner is said to be Klopp’s main target and the feeling appears to be mutual for the RB Leipzig striker.


    The Athletic says Manchester United and Barcelona have already registered their interest in signing Werner, who has a release clause which no one seems quite the value of. But Werner is waiting for Liverpool to show their hand. Anyone who wants to get the 23-year-old for the value stated in his contract – said to be around £51million – then they will have to get their skates on. Apparently, to activate that clause, a deal has to be wrapped up by April to allow Leipzig plenty of time to source a replacement.  


    AND THE REST


    Frank Lampard wants rid of eight Chelsea players including Kepa Arrizabalaga, Jorginho and Ross Barkley…


    Lampard want to bring RB Leipzig centre-half Dayot Upamecano to Stamford Bridge…


    Loris Karius wants Liverpool to let him leave on a free…


    Arsenal have told Flamengo that they will exercise their option to buy Pablo Mari permanently…


    Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly has bought a new £3.4m apartment in Paris.  


    For some bizarre reason, the F365 Show still hasn’t been cancelled. So we’ll be back every Thursday with more irreverent nonsense intriguing insight. Subscribe here.

  • Big Weekend: Palace, Grealish, Mourinho, Man United, Clasico

    Grealish wants to right a 2015 wrong. Mourinho has no more excuses. Also Man United, Brighton v Palace and...

    28 Feb 2020, 08:29 CET

    Grealish wants to right a 2015 wrong. Mourinho has no more excuses. Also Man United, Brighton v Palace and…  


    Game to watch – Brighton v Crystal Palace


    There is a wide range of explanations as to why Brighton and Crystal Palace share such animosity. It is a rivalry that transcends not only location but the power dynamic at 1960s Tottenham, promotions, relegations, nicknames and mysterious dressing-room faeces. Even without the historic discord and friction, Saturday’s game is of the utmost importance. Neither club is particularly clear of the Premier League’s bottom three, although Brighton’s need for the points is more pressing. It has been a curious season for the Seagulls.


    They have lost just two more games than Chelsea yet have fewer wins than all but Watford and Norwich, and remain the only Premier League side yet to win this calendar year. They have one more point than they did at this stage under Chris Hughton last season, but even converting just one of those ten draws would give them considerably more breathing space. Palace at home is one of their more presentable final fixtures.


    Roy Hodgson’s side pulled further clear of danger with a narrow but deserved win over Newcastle and would love nothing more than to increase that gap while simultaneously keeping Brighton in trouble. It makes for an interesting clash between one side that covets possession and another that thrives without it. Neither will see any reason to approach with trepidation, instead believing the opponent to be beatable.


    The managerial dichotomy adds another element. Potter spent seven-and-a-half years in Sweden and enjoyed a brief period in the Championship before making it to the Premier League, while Hodgson, in his rival’s words, is considered a “legend” in Scandinavia with a slightly more stunted reputation on these shores. Let’s just hope the only steaming turd left in either dressing room is the form of Christian Benteke, eh?  


    Player to watch – Jack Grealish Wembley


    evokes fond memories for Jack Grealish. It was his precocious performance that inspired Aston Villa to victory over Liverpool in the 2015 FA Cup semi-final, then a more mature captain’s display that took them to Championship play-off glory four years later. His development as a player and as a person can be measured by those two milestones. But the national stadium brings at least one story of heartbreak for most. Grealish is no different; he was utterly powerless to prevent Arsenal steamrollering Tim Sherwood’s side in the 2015 FA Cup final. Most expect that 4-0 scoreline to be similar on Sunday, if not worse.


    Villa’s preparation for the Carabao Cup final has comprised of three consecutive Premier League defeats and no clean sheets in any competition since Boxing Day. Manchester City have spent this week conquering the Bernabeu. The two sides were even separated by five goals when they last met in January. Grealish will be more determined than anyone to atone for those numerous mistakes. It might be his final chance to win something with and for his boyhood club.


    Whether Villa avoid relegation or not, Grealish seems destined for greater things. They will and should hold out for a mammoth transfer fee that represents his importance, yet there will be clubs happy to pay it. And while Grealish has already achieved so much at Villa Park, helping deliver the most unlikely of trophies would firmly establish him as a modern great.


    City have won three of the last four League Cups, often without even realising. Grealish is good enough to punish any indifference or apathy, provided his teammates start to pull something resembling their weight once more. The 24-year-old will not want a repeat of his last cup final Wembley trip. He is altogether more capable of preventing it this time.    


    Manager to watch – Jose Mourinho


    Lost amid the fallout of the Chelsea defeat was that it was the latest in a sequence of games Tottenham were beaten in last season. From the visit to Southampton on New Year’s Day to the game against West Ham on March 20 – and discounting meetings with promoted sides – Spurs face a run of eight Premier League games in which they lost the corresponding fixtures in 2018/19. It has not gone particularly well so far. They lost 1-0 at Southampton having been beaten 2-1 at St Mary’s in March 2019.


    September 2018 losses to Liverpool and Watford became a 1-0 defeat and 0-0 draw respectively by January 2020. The 2-0 reverse at Chelsea was repeated at Stamford Bridge last weekend. Only when hosting Manchester City in this run have they won a game they had previously lost. Against Wolves (1-3 defeat in December 2018), Burnley (2-1 defeat in February 2019), Manchester United (0-1 defeat in January 2019) and West Ham (0-1 defeat in April 2019), they have chances to rectify that.


    And Mourinho cannot rely on those same excuses if they fail to do so. He was brought in to improve on Mauricio Pochettino, to build upon what he did. Not to oversee that same level of stagnation on a far greater wage. He has done far better than many will concede, but with five extra days to prepare than his opponents for a home game, Mourinho cannot simply fall back on the absence of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min if it does not go to plan against Wolves on Sunday. It’s time to improvise, adapt and overcome.  


    Team to watch – Manchester United


    Even with a relegation to his name in a season which included a game Liverpool scored in six times, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s heaviest defeat in 66 matches as a Premier League manager remains that humbling at the hands of Everton towards the end of last season. While his Cardiff side were thrashed by the same scoreline against a Sunderland team rejuvenated under Gus Poyet in April 2014, Solskjaer himself has admitted the 4-0 loss Everton doled out last year was “a shambles, more or less”. It led to apologies, promises and introspection, but not before wholesale embarrassment.


    United are better than that side. Chris Smalling has been loaned out. Phil Jones has been marginalised. Diogo Dalot has been improved upon. Paul Pogba has been sidelined. Romelu Lukaku was sold. Harry Maguire has improved them in defence; Bruno Fernandes has refined them as an entire unit.


    Progress has undoubtedly been made. How much remains to be definitively seen. Their visit to Goodison Park on Sunday will provide a fascinating window against a side five points behind them, unbeaten at home since November and making headway of their own under a new manager. If United are to record three consecutive Premier League wins for the first time since January 2019, it won’t be easy.  


    Football League game to watch – Hull v Leeds


    No team in the entire Premier or Football League is on a longer winless run than Hull. Middlesbrough can match their nine league games without victory but they have at least drawn four times since their last three points. Hull have held only Reading and Swansea, losing the other seven matches. The injury-stricken side will soon be dragged into a relegation battle.


    They are being beaten by all manner of sides in a variety of ways: Barnsley (23rd), Preston (6th), Blackburn (8th), Brentford (5th), Huddersfield (19th), Derby (15th) and Fulham (3rd); home and away; by a single goal or as many as four. Four points separate them from Wigan in 22nd. The gap to Birmingham in 14th is bigger. Grant McCann is struggling to stem the tide, with only one member of their current squad (Tom Eaves, five) on more than three Championship goals this season after the sales of Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki. When do you think they’ll score their goal in a 1-0 win over Leeds on Saturday?  


    European game to watch – Real Madrid v Barcelona


    After December’s Clasico stalemate, one would be forgiven for tuning into Juventus against Inter Milan on Sunday evening instead, or perhaps even saving their energy for Leverkusen’s trip to Leipzig earlier in the day. But a spectacle this remains, if not on the pitch then behind the scenes. Neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona will be content with their seasons – one has changed managers and the other might soon contemplate that course of action – yet they boast at least a ten-point gap to Atletico in 3rd.


    The two points that separate these great rivals is more instructive. Level when they drew nine games ago, Barca have drawn with Espanyol, lost to Valencia and parted with Ernesto Valverde since.


    Real dropped points against Athletic Bilbao, Celta Vigo and Levante to leave them clutching ever so tightly to the Supercopa de España. With a Champions League deficit to overcome, combined with a quarter-final exit in the Copa del Rey and a gap to Barca that would grow to five points with a second away win in the Bernabeu this week, the stakes are high. It’s just a question of which club can rise to the occasion, if either.


    Matt Stead  


    For some bizarre reason, the F365 Show still hasn’t been cancelled. So we’ll be back every Thursday with more irreverent nonsense intriguing insight. Subscribe here.

  • Lest we forget: The back-flipping Celestine Babayaro

    Celestine Babayaro has stuck in our hearts and minds. We would definitely lend him our lawnmower...

    28 Feb 2020, 08:27 CET

    We take a look at players for whom we have a great deal of lingering fondness, sometimes for reasons unclear. We are putting together quite a collection…  


    From where did he appear?


    He cameth from Anderlecht, where I can glean a small amount of information on his performances for the team in possession of boring nicknames both in Dutch (the Purple and Whites) and in Flemish (Sporting). We can all remember where we were, a few months fresh from our 16th birthdays, lording it over the school from our lofty perch in sixth form, starting to believe that we might not get ID’d, this time, getting sent off in a Champions League game and setting a record as the youngest player to do that, while winning the Belgian league in our debut season.


    Such strange, truncated, and you’d think, emotionally disturbing timetables young footballers who suddenly become valuable have to keep. And, to quote Alan Shearer, it doesn’t necessarily seem the best recipe for long-term success.


    For every Arjen Robben or Lionel Messi who made it work thanks to gargantuan amounts of talent, or James Milner thanks to gargantuan amounts of beige-hued mental stability, there’s a world of Bojans, Lee Bowyers, Michael Owens and Freddy Adus, all of whom were not eventually what they were prophesied to be.


    And indeed – though playing it in a minor key – Babayaro himself. He didn’t start at Anderlecht; he started at Plateau United, a football team from the city of Jos. Related to that team, I can only offer you this: in 2013, the feeder team for Plateau was indicted and banned for ten years for their role in a match-fixing scam.


    What alerted the authorities?


    A 79-0 victory over Akurba FC. On a bigger stage, he was both a member of an U-17 World Cup-winning Nigerian team, and a few years later, unforgettably, a gold-medal Olympian in 1996, part of a team where every player was worth a look, from Jay-Jay Okocha to Taribo West to Nwankwo Kanu to quite the most beautifully named of all footballers, Sunday Oliseh. And in the final – of course refereed by Pierluigi Collina – after scoring Nigeria’s first against a team featuring literally every single future name of that era’s Argentina, from Zanetti at the back to Crespo at the front, Celestine did a back-flip then sauntered like a drunken sailor towards the corner flag.


    So that was the back story, and all of his rangy, action-packed, enthusiastic work from left-back had alerted a Chelsea scout, and over here he came to join a Chelsea side that was by then (1997) fully in the groove of throwing off its dour trappings when every player was called Newton and Sinclair, and replacing them with far more appealing names like Gullit, Zola and Vialli. Into that mix came Celestine.  


    How did it go?


    Let us never pretend that, for some Premier League players, we can retain a crystal-clear image of their individual contribution. To some degree, they’re simply names we can’t forget, a mind’s second tier behind the names of people we knew at school. But beyond that, they exist at least for me like a caricature of themselves, a sudden flash of long legs and bolting athleticism up the left side, a shonky touch, enthusiasm undimmed, a back-flip, as other swirls of memory – Gianfranco Zola’s pretty footwork then sudden thunderbolts, Roberto Di Matteo smoothly transitioning defence to attack, Dennis Wise lunging into a tackle then leaping up like a small, angry dog – appear in the same mental neighbourhood.


    In terms of the facts, it was a bountiful time for Chelsea. I seem to recall them participating in every single cup final, and indeed in Celestine’s debut season – alongside the not inconsiderable new contributions to the Chelsea effort of Tore Andre Flo, Gus Poyet and a young John Terry – they reached and won the League Cup final, having won the FA Cup the previous year, and reached and won the Cup Winners’ Cup final. That was the cup run featuring, you might recall, Chelsea playing Tromso in what you’d class as ‘heavy snow’, 200-odd miles from the Arctic circle.


    The ball was switched for an orange one, the playing surface submerged under a white carpet – I have so much respect for professional footballers, in these moments. Gianluca Vialli scored two goals that both implied he was still taking this seriously, trying to make proper runs, execute chances, whilst breathing in lungfuls of torturously cold air. You wouldn’t do that, you’d just run around slipping over and hoofing at things. Not that any of it was necessarily of that much interest to Celestine; he got injured in December and missed the whole of the season.


    But once he’d regained fitness, he was a valuable outlet for that Chelsea side, who I recall being a wildcard of complete delight, purveyors of the most swaggering kind of football, just behind the more professional and effective heavyweights of United and Arsenal. In a sense, they’d both bought wonderfully, and badly – Zola, Poyet, Di Matteo and Vialli all graced any football pitch, but only the middle of it.


    Width was in short supply, and hence, having a left-back with boundless running and exuberance to streak past all the congested midfield happenings and put balls into the box, especially for Tor Andre Flo, was exactly what they needed. In his second season, Chelsea came third, a very new thing for them, participating in a slightly demented final table where, despite the top three only losing ten games between them, they also contrived to draw 40, so no-one’s got many points, and Chelsea missed the title by four. Two of their draws converted to wins and Celestine’s a title-winner.


    Instead, a few more cups were added, charitably including the 2000 Charity Shield and that, as far as a successful career goes, was that. As Chelsea moved in fits and spurts into the last throes of being a loveable team, Celestine was there on the left side doing his exuberant thing. And then how about this, as a chillingly humdrum line: he was declared bankrupt in 2011.


    Oh Celestine, what have you done?    


    What was his defining moment?


    It would be cruel and misplaced to judge the success of a football player’s career by whether they bring it to a safe, stable conclusion. I’m surprised by any successful footballer that isn’t bankrupt, given the age at which they get their money and the culture that surrounds the getting of it. Not sure I was particularly good at picking advisors and planning exit strategies aged 25 either. I read a report by an academic who surveyed a huge number of African players, interviewing Marcel Desailly (born in Ghana), Emmanuel Eboue, Samuel Eto’o, Victor Wanyama among many others, and every single one interviewed said they felt both culturally and morally bound to send money back home and invest in local projects.


    As you can imagine, the beginnings of many African professional required all kinds of help – for equipment, to travel to places where scouts might be, to afford foreign visas – and hence, they feel a pressing debt to their origins. Furthermore, they reference cultural ties that run broader and deeper in Africa than in the nuclear families of Europe.


    The financial obligation is growing. Plus, you’re such a visible ‘earner’ – there’s no way you can disappear into the foreign diaspora and plead hardship. Not to bum you out too much, but I’ve read an article from the Newcastle Chronicle referencing a house in Middlesex where, having declared bankruptcy, Babayaro was now living. And where, auditioning for the role of petty Englander par excellence, a neighbour tells us “they came and asked to borrow my lawnmower, but I had to say no because the grass was too long, and it would have broken it”, Witness the different senses of community obligation in different places.


    Why would the Newcastle Chronicle have taken interest in a player who played for them about 40 times and did almost nothing of note?


    Because almost nothing is not quite nothing, and in 2007, 12 hours after his brother died of tuberculosis, he declared he nonetheless wanted to play for the team. I remembered it too, a moment flashed in time, Glenn Roeder’s appreciation in a press conference, just another moment on that vast subconscious tapestry of ‘things that happened’ we football fans are all carting around.  


    How is he now?


    More cheerful than you might think, having recast himself as an agent, though all notes of enthusiasm he sounds – for the prospects of African football, for Nigerian players – seem tempered by the desire to not get too carried away that all those who have been burnt by misplaced optimism will recognise.


    This is nice though, talking about his son, who currently playing in Newcastle’s academy: “He does do the back-flips, I’m being completely serious with you…he saw a video of me doing them. He decided he had to learn how to do them so now he does them without even putting his hands on the floor which is great. I love watching him play.”  


    Toby Sprigings    


    For some bizarre reason, the F365 Show still hasn’t been cancelled. So we’ll be back every Thursday with more irreverent nonsense intriguing insight. Subscribe here.

  • Mikel Arteta divulges his main focus after Arsenal's shock Europa League exit

    Mikel Arteta has revealed his hurt after Arsenal crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Olympiacos.

    28 Feb 2020, 08:05 CET

    Mikel Arteta has revealed his hurt after Arsenal crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Olympiacos and his focus now is to lift his players. Youssef El Arabi’s goal in the dying minutes of extra time ensured it was the Greek outfit who advanced to the last 16 on away goals following a 2-2 aggregate draw.
    The Gunners struggled to get going and fell to a 2-1 defeat on the night, though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang thought he had done enough to send Arsenal through when he equalised with an overhead kick in the second period of extra time, after Pape Abou Cisse’s header took the tie into an additional 30 minutes. Aubameyang then squandered a glorious opportunity to spare Arsenal’s blushes after El Arabi’s decisive goal.
    “It hurts, big time,” Arteta said.
    “We had a lot of hope in this competition. It was a great way for us to be able to go to Europe and it is a very beautiful competition to try to win.
    “I think we did a lot of positive things in the game. I think we created enough chances to win the game, but if you concede two set-pieces again in a tie like this, then you put yourself in big trouble.”
    Asked about his side’s finishing, he said: “That’s what I’m saying. We’ve got enough goal threat in this team, we have to put these chances to bed.
    “At the end of the day, in Europe it’s (about) both boxes – in opponent’s box we missed chances that should have been goals. In our box the few things they had they put them in and the set pieces we were vulnerable at the end. Arteta also agreed his side took time to get going.
    “The first 10-15 minutes it was like this. As the game went on we were getting better and better and better, they were playing deeper and deeper we generated more than enough chances to win the game and we shouldn’t be talking about what happened now,” added Arteta. Asked about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s state of mind after the game, he said: “I’ve seen all the boys, I know how much they wanted this competition. I’ve  seen today the way they fight, the way we try to play.
    “It’s a difficult one to digest as a team and club but this is football. Sometimes it’s very cruel when the emotions are right here and in one minute the emotions are right here.
    “You have to be able to handle that if you want to be in this industry. Now it’s up to us and up to me to lift the players back in and move forward.”
    Gunners goalkeeper Bernd Leno conceded a cheap corner from which the visitors passed the ball around before El Arabi turned Giorgos Masouras’ cross beyond the German.      
    On whether Leno could have done more, Arteta said: “Yes, obviously he could have kicked it out, but then there is another situation to defend.
    “It’s not only the first phase but it’s the second phase of that corner that we concede and the player steps in and just taps in the ball in the six-yard box, which is unacceptable.
    “It is something we have to improve on.”
    Olympiacos boss Pedro Martins believed his side got everything they deserved.
    “I think against Arsenal we had two very difficult games against a bigger opponent,” he said.
    “But from the start of our European journey in the Champions League up until now we deserved to go through – perhaps we deserved more from our game against Spurs (in the Champions League group stage) and maybe we got what we deserved today.”
    READ MORE: Arsenal rejected chance to re-sign £30m-rated star for bargain fee  

  • Mosimane: It's the worst time to face Al Ahly

    Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane reckons it's a bad time to be facing Al Ahly as they are currently in red-hot form.

    28 Feb 2020, 07:59 CET

    Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane reckons it's a bad time to be facing Al Ahly as they are currently in red-hot form. Masandawana will square off with the Egyptian juggernauts in Cairo on Saturday for the first leg of their CAF Champions League quarter-final.
    Last season the Reds endured a 5-0 humbling at the hands of Sundowns, but Mosimane has warned that it is highly unlikely to be an easy game for his charges, especially considering the hosts' current form.
    'We're playing against the Club of the Century and the fact that we beat them 5-0 will make it more difficult for us,' Mosimane said during the pre-match press conference, as quoted by Kingfut.
    'Yes, winning 5-0 won't put extra pressure on us but it will make it more difficult. This result will never happen again, especially against a side with Al Ahly's form.
    'The pressure might be on Al Ahly who will try to win by a big margin in Cairo. We're coming up against them at the worst time as they beat every team they faced in the league, scored 40 goals and conceded only three goals.
    'Even Real Madrid and Barcelona don't reach these stats, we respect Al Ahly but we came here to qualify for the next round.'
    He added: 'No African team can say they can easily beat Al Ahly in Egypt, if we expect to win in Cairo we will concede five goals.'

  • Nuno urges Wolves improvement after Espanyol defeat

    Nuno Espirito Santo insists there is room for improvement despite seeing his Wolves side reach the last 16 of the Europa League.

    28 Feb 2020, 07:47 CET

    Jonathan Calleri’s hat-trick earned Espanyol a 3-2 win in Barcelona on Thursday but Wolves still progressed 6-3 on aggregate from the last-32 tie.
    Adama Traore and Matt Doherty scored for the visitors on the night and now Wolves will discover their opponents for the next round when the draw is made on Friday.
    Boss Nuno has demanded more of his players if they are to reach the business end of the competition.
    He said: “We should have done better, but the hard work was there and we made something which is massive for us. It was a lot of hard work last season, so we are proud of what we have been doing.
    “We are on the journey, we focus on our daily process, tomorrow we will train, Saturday we’re going to train and then we will travel to play Tottenham. It’s massive for the club and city, we are happy. We want to keep going. This gel between players is amazing.
    “Friday is the draw, let’s see. I’m focused on what we have to do and what we have to do is recover in the dressing room.”
    Wolves are just five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League table and find themselves firmly in the battle to secure Champions League football this season.
    The West Midlands outfit will see their credentials tested once again on Sunday when they make the trip to north London to take on Spurs.
    Just one point separates the two teams in the table, with Wolves going in search of revenge after suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham at Molineux in December.

  • Arteta hurting after Arsenal crash out of Europa League

    Manager Mikel Arteta has revealed his hurt after his Arsenal side crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Olympiakos.

    28 Feb 2020, 07:14 CET

    Youssef El Arabi’s goal in the dying minutes of extra time ensured it was the Greek outfit who advanced to the last 16 on away goals following a 2-2 aggregate draw.
    The Gunners struggled to get going and fell to a 2-1 defeat on the night although Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang thought he had done enough to send Arsenal through when he equalised with an overhead kick in the second period of extra time after Pape Abou Cisse’s header took the tie into an additional 30 minutes.
    It was skipper Aubameyang who then squandered a golden opportunity to spare Arsenal’s blushes after El Arabi’s decisive goal.
    With his side now out of the competition, Arteta admitted emotions were running high after the full-time whistle.
    “It hurts, big time,” Arteta said. “We had a lot of hope in this competition. It was a great way for us to be able to go to Europe and it is a very beautiful competition to try to win.
    “I think we did a lot of positive things in the game. I think we created enough chances to win the game, but if you concede two set-pieces again in a tie like this, then you put yourself in big trouble.”
    Arsenal will next switch their focus to another cup competition when they make the trip to Portsmouth in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday.
    The Gunners are back in Premier League action the following Saturday when they host an all-London affair against West Ham at the Emirates.
    Arsenal sit in ninth place in the Premier League table and have work to do if they are to make sure they have any sort of European football to play next season.

  • Complacency must not be City’s undoing against Real

    The Manchester City players will have left the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night with their chests puffed out and their heads held high.

    28 Feb 2020, 07:12 CET

    Rightly so after a memorable 2-1 victory at the home of La Liga giants Real Madrid.
    A sense of achievement would be even more understandable considering City found themselves behind in the Champions League last-16 first leg, as Isco gave the hosts the lead.
    Ultimately a goal from Gabriel Jesus and a penalty from skipper Kevin De Bruyne saw City bag two valuable away goals, as former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola returned to the Spanish capital to spoil the locals’ night once again.
    However, as Guardiola will be preaching every day in training before the return leg in Manchester, this one is not over by a long shot.
    City midfielder Rodri was pretty vocal after the final whistle in Madrid, claiming full time had saved Los Blancos, who saw skipper Sergio Ramos sent off late on, from going even further behind.
    However, being a former Atletico Madrid player, Rodri is fully aware of what Real are capable of, especially in this competition.
    “It is a good result, but it’s not done at all, knowing the opponent we have before us,” he said. “We will approach the game with the greatest seriousness and I am sure they will battle.”
    That must be the attitude throughout the squad or they could easily become unstuck at the Etihad Stadium on March 17.
    Both teams had a host of chances in the first leg and City will be hoping for a slightly more disciplined defensive display from themselves.
    That might be easier said than done, considering Guardiola’s resources are at their limits when it comes to fit personnel in defence.
    Forward Vinicius Junior was a real threat throughout the contest, while on another night Karim Benzema could have finished the game with a couple of goals.
    It was one of those games, and there are bound to have been many this season, when the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo was deeply felt by the home faithful around the Bernabeu.
    The Portuguese superstar would certainly have made a difference although he’s now got a job of his own to do to get Juventus past Lyon and into the Champions League’s last eight.
    Either way, it should be another thrilling encounter in Manchester between these two attacking sides. If City get their attitude right, they certainly have the quality to reach the quarter-finals.

  • Zinnbauer describes 'special feeling' in Pirates squad

    Orlando Pirates head coach Josef Zinnbauer says he will dance with his players if they beat Kaizer Chiefs in the Soweto derby on Saturday.

    28 Feb 2020, 06:50 CET

    Orlando Pirates head coach Josef Zinnbauer says he will dance with his players if they beat Kaizer Chiefs in the Soweto derby on Saturday.
    The Buccaneers have experienced a resurgence under the German tactician this year and now find themselves only six points adrift of Chiefs, which means a win at FNB Stadium on Saturday would see Zinnbauer's men reduce the deficit to three points.
    Zinnbauer has revealed that his players are highly motivated for the crucial Absa Premiership tie and are voluntarily putting in extra hours in training.
    'I say, 'Stop now, training is finished.'
    But they say, 'No, no, coach, we want to play more - give us a free-kick or give us a corner, or whatever,' Zinnbauer told the media on Thursday.
    'They have a special feeling; they are focused on the (Soweto) Derby, but we have to focus on the next game and for us, as coaches, it's only the game that's important.
    'But I know it's a special game for me too, but you don't get more points [from the Derby] than any other game, yeah?
    You have a chance for three points and not more.'
    Zinnbauer was caught on camera dancing in the Pirates dressing room recently, and stated that it was just a taste of what's to come if his team come out on top.
    'The guys (the players), they dance and have fun and it is good. In the video, you only saw me alone, but on the other side it was a player and I told him when we win we will dance together,' he added.
    'If we win and then we dance and I made a little dance and then there was hype in the press.'

  • Middendorp: Claiming Pirates don't want the title is nonsense

    Kaizer Chiefs head coach Ernst Middendorp says it's ridiculous to think that Orlando Pirates wouldn't fight tooth and nail for the Absa Premiership title.

    28 Feb 2020, 06:38 CET

    Kaizer Chiefs head coach Ernst Middendorp says it's ridiculous to think that Orlando Pirates wouldn't fight tooth and nail for the Absa Premiership title.
    The Buccaneers camp have downplayed their title ambitions ahead of the all-important Soweto derby on Saturday, even though they have a chance to cut Chiefs' lead at the top of the standings to only three points.
    However, Middendorp says he isn't falling for it and believes both teams will be battling until the end of the season to lift the Premiership silverware.
    'I don't fall into this trap, I have heard it, that Kaizer Chiefs want the title and Pirates don't. I haven't heard more nonsense than this in the last few days!' Middendorp told the media, according to Goal.
    'No one said eight weeks ago we have a chance of the title, now all guys say 'you have a chance for the title' - no we have a chance for three points.
    'I am the last to say we don't want the title, all the players want the title, I want the title if and when we have the chance, we take the chance.'
    The old rivals will clash at FNB Stadium at 15h30 on Saturday.

  • Football rumours from the media

    Moves in and out of Stamforrd Bridge make headlines on Friday.

    28 Feb 2020, 06:14 CET

    What the papers say

    The Chelsea squad could be subject to a shake-up over the summer, with the Sun reporting that Frank Lampard will lead a clear-out at Stamford Bridge which could see Kepa Arrizabalaga, Jorginho and Ross Barkley heading for the exit.

    Sticking with Chelsea, and the Daily Mirror reports that Lampard is keen on reinforcing his defence with Dayot Upamecano who is currently on the books of RB Leipzig.

    Manchester United want to keep Angel Gomes into next season and are hopeful he will pen a new deal with the Old Trafford club, reports the Manchester Evening News. Gomes has made six appearances for the first team this season.

    Kalidou Koulibaly, currently on the books of Napoli and subject to interest from Manchester United, has been linked with a move to Ligue 1 champions Paris St Germain according to the Daily Star.

    Aston Villa are weighing up a move for Morgan Sanson should they remain in the Premier League this season, reports the Birmingham Mail. The Marseille midfielder has represented France at both under-19 and under-21 level.

    Social media round-up

    Players to watch

    Loris Karius: The 26-year-old is keen on making his loan move to Besiktas permanent, and is hoping Liverpool will let him leave on a free transfer, reports Fotospor.

    Pablo Mari: Arsenal are keen on signing the 26-year-old from Flamengo with the defender impressing during his current loan spell at the Emirates Stadium, says Coluna Do Fla.

    Ugurcan Cakir: Sheffield United have suffered a setback in their bid to sign the Turkey goalkeeper after Trabzonspor rejected an £11m bid, reports Turkish Football.

  • Emile Heskey chased down street as child in racist incident

    The ex-England international says he was never targeted in an English stadium.

    28 Feb 2020, 06:00 CET

    Former England striker Emile Heskey revealed he once got chased down the street by a man shouting racist abuse at him, but says he was never targeted in English football grounds.

    Heskey, who retired in 2016, was a young academy player at Leicester when a fan accosted him outside the stadium and abused him.

    The 42-year-old suspects the same man will have been cheering him on when he made his debut as a 17-year-old and went on to help the Foxes win silverware.

    There have been several high-profile cases of racism in England over the past couple of years, with Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang among the players to have been the subject of racist abuse.

    But Heskey never found himself targeted inside a stadium in England.

    “I can’t say that I got any abuse in England, it was always abroad,” he told the PA news agency.

    “In normal life I got more abuse. I never got anything in England but I would walk down the street and be chased.

    “I got chased from a Leicester game. I was 13 or 14. Fast-forward three and a half years, that same guy might have been chanting my name.

    “It was part of society and part of my upbringing. I can’t say it was good but it made me who I am.”

    Heskey played 62 times for England across an 11-year period and was on the receiving end of abuse in eastern European countries.

    FIFA has introduced the three-step protocol which could ultimately see players walk off the pitch – something England were close to doing in their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria last year.

    Heskey, who also played for Liverpool, Birmingham, Wigan, Aston Villa and Bolton, thinks he would have walked off if he was given the chance.

    “I had it with the national team in Slovakia and Croatia,” he said.

    “I don’t know because I didn’t have that option. I would like to think I would have (walked off) but I don’t know.

    “It is a weird one because when else do you get three chances to have a go at someone and so viciously and get away with it?

    “At least it’s there, that’s the good thing, and it is something that can be used, whereas when I was playing there was nothing, you just had to take it on the chin and move on.”

  • Solskjaer full of praise for Ighalo after Europa League success

    Ighalo was among the scorers in a 5-0 victory at Old Trafford.

    28 Feb 2020, 04:30 CET

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described Odion Ighalo as a “natural striker” after the on-loan Nigerian scored his first Manchester United goal in the Europa League drubbing of Club Brugge.

    With Anthony Martial missing out through injury, Ighalo was given his first start since his surprise loan move from Shanghai Shenhua last month.

    The 30-year-old responded with a goal in the first half and led the line well as United eased to a 5-0 victory against 10-man opposition to go through to the last 16 6-1 on aggregate.

    Solskjaer said: “I’m very happy with the contribution of Odion, doing what he does. He’s a target man, we can play up to him, he’ll hold it, he’s got Juan (Mata) and Bruno (Fernandes) next to him and you’ve got runners then.

    “I think as a fellow striker I know how important that first goal is. He’s been close a couple of times, you can see he sniffs goals. He wants to be there where it sometimes hurts. That goal, he’s sharp in his head. That’s a natural striker.”

    Ighalo’s fellow January recruit Fernandes showed again what a exciting signing he is, scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot after a spectacular handball from defender Simon Deli, who was sent off.

    The Portuguese then played a crucial role in the second for Ighalo before Scott McTominay, making a welcome return to the starting line-up after injury, grabbed a third before half-time.

    Two late goals from Fred emphasised United’s superiority, and Solskjaer was understandably buoyant as he reflected on the performance.

    The Norwegian said: “I’m very happy tonight. Obviously we’re in a moment now that we rotate a bit, players are getting games, but, when you score goals and play like this, you’re going to get more confidence.

    “It was brilliant to see the start of the game, I thought they had the right intent, created loads of chances, and, when they go down to 10 men, of course the game was more or less over.”

    Fernandes has had a huge impact since his move from Sporting Lisbon, and Solskjaer said: “Bruno coming in obviously makes a big, big difference. You can see he’s got a hand in all the three first goals. What a pass, what a goal Odion’s goal was.”

    Two goals for Fred was another big positive for United, with the Brazilian finding the net for United for the first time since September 2018.

    “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be alive the next time he was going to score a goal because he’s had so many attempts,” said Solskjaer with a smile.

    “But one with his right, one with his left. It’s been an ongoing joke between us of course, but he got that goal and I’m very pleased for him.”

    The only bad news was a thigh injury for Martial that ruled him out of the squad.

    Solskjaer is waiting to find out whether the forward could be available against Everton on Sunday, saying: “He went off training yesterday, just had treatment. He tried today, he reported, had a fitness test this morning.”

  • Players need to put Europa League defeat behind them, says Arsenal boss Arteta

    Youssef El Arabi broke Arsenal hearts at the Emirates.

    28 Feb 2020, 04:30 CET

    Mikel Arteta has called on his Arsenal players to “keep fighting” for the remainder of the season after they were sensationally dumped out of the Europa League by Olympiakos.

    The Gunners lost on away goals as Youssef El Arabi scored in the final minute of extra-time to give the Greek side a 2-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium.

    It was enough for Olympiakos to progress as the tie ended 2-2, with the away goals rule sending last season’s beaten finalists crashing out at the round of 32 stage.

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s acrobatic finish in the second-half of extra-time appeared to have Arsenal on course for qualification after Pape Abou Cisse’s header had sent the tie into an additional 30 minutes.

    But El Arabi’s last-gasp winner brought a premature end to Arsenal’s European campaign and – sitting ninth in the Premier League – Arteta now wants his side to bounce back and be in the fight to qualify for the Champions League by their one remaining route.

    Asked about the difficulty of finishing in the top four, Arteta replied: “(It is) very hard because looking at the table we’re still far from the objectives that we all have, but we’ve been far all season from it and we have to keep fighting.

    “The most important thing now is that the dressing room has to be strong and we have to keep going and react.

    “First of all, I have to convince them about what happened in the game and why they are not through in the tie.

    “If they continue to do that, there will be rewards like we have done in the last 10 games that we played.”

    Arsenal had shown signs of improving since Arteta’s appointment in December but they were lacklustre for much of Thursday evening, having gone into the second leg defending a 1-0 lead.

    “It hurts, big time,” added Arteta.

    “We had a lot of hope in this competition. It was a great way for us to be able to go to Europe and it is a very beautiful competition to try to win.”

    Olympiakos boss Pedro Martins believed his side got everything they deserved.

    “I think against Arsenal we had two very difficult games against a bigger opponent,” he said.

    “But from the start of our European journey in the Champions League up until now we deserved to go through – perhaps we deserved more from our game against Spurs (in the Champions League group stage) and maybe we got what we deserved today.”

  • Nuno Espirito Santo wants more from Wolves

    Wolves will learn their last-16 opponents on Friday.

    28 Feb 2020, 04:30 CET

    Nuno Espirito Santo insists there is room for improvement despite seeing Wolves reach the last 16 of the Europa League.

    Jonathan Calleri’s hat-trick earned Espanyol a 3-2 win in Barcelona on Thursday but Wolves progressed 6-3 on aggregate.

    Adama Traore and Matt Doherty scored for the visitors and Wolves will discover their opponents for the next round when the draw is made on Friday.

    And after their victory in the last-32 tie boss Nuno demanded more.

    He said: “We should have done better but the hard work was there and we made something which is massive for us. It was a lot of hard work last season so we are proud of what we have been doing.

    “We are on the journey, we focus on our daily process, tomorrow we will train, Saturday we’re going to train and then we will travel to play Tottenham (on Sunday).

    “It’s massive for the club and city, we are happy. We want to keep going. This gel between players is amazing.

    “You can only evaluate and dedicate some time (to the achievement) when you’ve finished. We are on the journey. When you are on that you have to focus on a daily basis and keep on going.

    “Friday is the draw, let’s see. I’m focused on what we have to do and what we have to do is recover in the dressing room.”

    Meanwhile, Wolves will write to UEFA to ask why Espanyol were allowed to sell tickets to travelling fans for the home end.

    The club are unhappy their Europa League rivals were openly allowing Wolves supporters to buy seats, the PA news agency understands.

    There was a small scuffle at the start of the season half in a corporate section of the RCDE Stadium on Thursday and some fans were ejected by stewards and police.

    It was away from the official travelling section, with Wolves having been allocated 2,100 tickets.

  • Lennon frustrated as late goals seal Europa League exit for Celtic

    Late goals secured the tie in favour of the Danes.

    28 Feb 2020, 04:30 CET

    Neil Lennon described Celtic’s Europa League exit at the hands of FC Copenhagen on Thursday night as a lost opportunity for the Parkhead club.

    The last-32 tie was finely balanced at 1-1 following the first-leg at the Parken stadium last week but the Danish side took the lead at Parkhead in the 51st minute through substitute Michael Santos when he took advantage of a slack back pass by Hoops defender Jozo Simunovic.

    Striker Odsonne Edouard levelled with a VAR-awarded penalty in the 82nd minute and it looked like the tie could go to extra-time.

    However, three minutes later midfielder Pep Biel restored the visitors’ lead before striker Dame N’Doye, who scored last week, added a third in the 87th minute to seal a 4-2 aggregate defeat.

    It was Celtic’s first defeat of 2020 and a frustrated Hoops boss said: “It was an opportunity lost.

    “Copenhagen didn’t have to work hard to get goals, that was so frustrating and not like us at all.

    “I am hugely disappointed. We shot ourselves in the foot.

    “We had total control of game in first half, I don’t remember Fraser Forster having anything to do of note.

    “We hit the post and I was pretty pleased at half time and then we made mistakes and gave them oxygen and encouragement.

    “We had to change the shape to get back into the game and deservedly got back in but we didn’t manage the game, we shot ourselves in foot

    for second goal and that was the big moment of the tie.

    “Individual mistakes cost us and that’s the nuts and bolts of it.

    “It was a great opportunity and we let it go. It was bitterly disappointing in the manner we lost.”

    FC Copenhagen would return to Glasgow if they are drawn against Rangers in the last 16 and boss Stale Solbakken said: “We had some players who are trying to come back from injury, train at Rangers’ ground and they met Steven Gerrard and Gerrard obviously hoped that maybe we could meet in this tournament.

    “Maybe that can happen.

    “I seen Rangers play against Celtic in the League Cup final and in the league and it is two very even teams.

    “That will be as hard and as tough and maybe even tougher because it is one more round now.”

  • Solskjaer thought death might come before Fred's next Man Utd goal

    Ole paid tribute to Bruno Fernandes, Odion Ighalo and unlikely two-goal hero Fred...

    28 Feb 2020, 02:23 CET

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised January signings Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo after Manchester United eased through to the last 16 of the Europa League. United dismissed Belgian opponents Club Brugge 5-0 at Old Trafford to win 6-1 on aggregate. Fernandes pulled the strings in the first half, scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot after a spectacular handball from defender Simon Deli, who was sent off.
    The Portuguese then played a crucial role in the second for Ighalo before Scott McTominay, making a welcome return to the starting line-up after injury, grabbed a third before half-time. Two late goals from Fred emphasised United’s superiority, and Solskjaer was understandably buoyant as he reflected on the performance.
    The Norwegian said: “I’m very happy tonight. Obviously we’re in a moment now that we rotate a bit, players are getting games, but, when you score goals and play like this, you’re going to get more confidence.
    “It was brilliant to see the start of the game, I thought they had the right intent, created loads of chances, and, when they go down to 10 men, of course the game was more or less over.”
    Fernandes has had a huge impact since his move from Sporting Lisbon, while Ighalo was given a first start since his surprise loan signing from Shanghai Shenhua and responded with a strong display.
    “Bruno coming in obviously makes a big, big difference,” said Solskjaer.
    “You can see he’s got a hand in all the three first goals. What a pass, what a goal Odion’s goal was.
    “I’m very happy with the contribution of Odion as well up front, doing what he does. He’s a target man, we can play up to him, he’ll hold it, he’s got Juan (Mata) and Bruno next to him and you’ve got runners then.
    “I think as a fellow striker I know how important that first goal is. He’s been close a couple of times, you can see he sniffs goals. He wants to be there where it sometimes hurts. That goal, he’s sharp in his head. That’s a natural striker.”
    Two goals for Fred was another big positive for United, with the Brazilian finding the net for United for the first time since September 2018.
    “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be alive the next time he was going to score a goal because he’s had so many attempts,” said Solskjaer with a smile.
    “But one with his right, one with his left. It’s been an ongoing joke between us of course, but he got that goal and I’m very pleased for him.”
    The only bad news for United was a thigh injury for Anthony Martial that ruled him out of the squad. Solskjaer is waiting to find out whether the forward could be available against Everton on Sunday, saying: “He went off training yesterday, just had treatment. He tried today, he reported, had a fitness test this morning.”
    Brugge boss Philippe Clement felt his team were hard done by with refereeing decisions over the two games, citing a possible penalty for an early challenge by Harry Maguire on David Okereke. On Deli’s moment of madness, Clement said: “It was a reaction, it was not intended. He apologised towards the team. It’s finished also for us because he did a very good season already.
    “We know Manchester is a better team. I said before the two games that we should play above our top and that the circumstances have to go our way. For sure the circumstances didn’t go our way.”
    For some bizarre reason, the F365 Show still hasn’t been cancelled. So we’ll be back every Thursday with more irreverent nonsense intriguing insight. Subscribe here.  

  • Arteta on Arsenal's Europa exit: 'It hurts, big time'

    'I think we did a lot of positive things.' But Arteta knows Arsenal shot themselves in the foot again...

    28 Feb 2020, 02:21 CET

    Manager Mikel Arteta has revealed his hurt after Arsenal crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Olympiacos.
    Youssef El Arabi’s goal in the dying minutes of extra time ensured it was the Greek outfit who advanced to the last 16 on away goals following a 2-2 aggregate draw.
    The Gunners struggled to get going and fell to a 2-1 defeat on the night, though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang thought he had done enough to send Arsenal through when he equalised with an overhead kick in the second period of extra time, after Pape Abou Cisse’s header took the tie into an additional 30 minutes. Aubameyang then squandered a glorious opportunity to spare Arsenal’s blushes after El Arabi’s decisive goal.
    “It hurts, big time,” Arteta said.
    “We had a lot of hope in this competition. It was a great way for us to be able to go to Europe and it is a very beautiful competition to try to win.
    “I think we did a lot of positive things in the game. I think we created enough chances to win the game, but if you concede two set-pieces again in a tie like this, then you put yourself in big trouble.”
    Gunners goalkeeper Bernd Leno conceded a cheap corner from which the visitors passed the ball around before El Arabi turned Giorgos Masouras’ cross beyond the German. On whether Leno could have done more, Arteta said: “Yes, obviously he could have kicked it out, but then there is another situation to defend.
    “It’s not only the first phase but it’s the second phase of that corner that we concede and the player steps in and just taps in the ball in the six-yard box, which is unacceptable.
    “It is something we have to improve on.”
    Olympiacos boss Pedro Martins believed his side got everything they deserved.
    “I think against Arsenal we had two very difficult games against a bigger opponent,” he said.
    “But from the start of our European journey in the Champions League up until now we deserved to go through – perhaps we deserved more from our game against Spurs (in the Champions League group stage) and maybe we got what we deserved today.”  


    For some bizarre reason, the F365 Show still hasn’t been cancelled. So we’ll be back every Thursday with more irreverent nonsense intriguing insight. Subscribe here.  

  • Arteta ‘hurt’ by Arsenal’s Europa League exit

    The Gunners were beaten on away goals by Olympiacos.

    28 Feb 2020, 00:05 CET

    Manager Mikel Arteta has revealed his hurt after Arsenal crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Olympiacos.

    Youssef El Arabi’s goal in the dying minutes of extra time ensured it was the Greek outfit who advanced to the last 16 on away goals following a 2-2 aggregate draw.

    The Gunners struggled to get going and fell to a 2-1 defeat on the night, though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang thought he had done enough to send Arsenal through when he equalised with an overhead kick in the second period of extra time, after Pape Abou Cisse’s header took the tie into an additional 30 minutes.

    Aubameyang then squandered a glorious opportunity to spare Arsenal’s blushes after El Arabi’s decisive goal.

    “It hurts, big time,” Arteta said. “We had a lot of hope in this competition. It was a great way for us to be able to go to Europe and it is a very beautiful competition to try to win.

    “I think we did a lot of positive things in the game. I think we created enough chances to win the game, but if you concede two set-pieces again in a tie like this, then you put yourself in big trouble.”

    Gunners goalkeeper Bernd Leno conceded a cheap corner from which the visitors passed the ball around before El Arabi turned Giorgos Masouras’ cross beyond the German.

    On whether Leno could have done more, Arteta said: “Yes, obviously he could have kicked it out, but then there is another situation to defend.

    “It’s not only the first phase but it’s the second phase of that corner that we concede and the player steps in and just taps in the ball in the six-yard box, which is unacceptable.

    “It is something we have to improve on.”

    Olympiacos boss Pedro Martins believed his side got everything they deserved.

    “I think against Arsenal we had two very difficult games against a bigger opponent,” he said.

    “But from the start of our European journey in the Champions League up until now we deserved to go through – perhaps we deserved more from our game against Spurs (in the Champions League group stage) and maybe we got what we deserved today.”

  • Captains Kane and Houghton sign up to FA’s ‘Pledge of Positivity’

    The campaign aims to tackle touchline behaviour at under-18s matches.

    28 Feb 2020, 00:01 CET

    England men’s and women’s captains Harry Kane and Steph Houghton have given their backing to the Football Association’s latest Respect campaign, the Pledge of Positivity.

    The campaign aims to tackle touchline behaviour at under-18s matches by encouraging parents to sign up to the pledge.

    Kane and Houghton have written a letter to parents and other spectators, which was painted around the side of the pitch at their respective childhood clubs – Ridgeway Rovers and Boldon Girls.

    “As parents and spectators, it is our job to make sure that children enjoy playing football,” Kane said.

    “The pitch should be a place of support and encouragement. Youngsters should never feel pressure or intimidation from the sidelines, so I’m delighted to add my name to the Pledge of Positivity and I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to do the same.”

    Houghton added: “Positivity is essential in football. It’s important to create an environment where everyone enjoys playing.

    “There are small things you can do on the touchline – like applauding good play from both teams – that has a big impact on young players.”

    The FA’s Respect campaign was relaunched in the 2018-19 season having originally being introduced 10 years earlier, with the new mantra being ‘We Only Do Positive’.

  • Leicester City vs Norwich City

    28 Feb 2020, 00:00 CET

    There is a 23.8% chance of a draw. In simulations where the game is not a draw Leicester City, at 51.4%, are heavy favorites to beat Norwich City who have just a 24.7% chance to win at home. Overall, the average simulation score is Leicester City 2.1 to Norwich City 1.5. In simulation wins, Norwich City upsets Leicester City by averaging 12.2 shots and 5.3 shots on goal. They average 2.6 goals in simulated victories vs just 0.9 in simulation losses.

  • Real Valladolid vs Real Sociedad

    28 Feb 2020, 00:00 CET

    There is a 27.7% chance of a draw. In simulations where the game is not a draw Real Sociedad, at 51.4%, are heavy favorites to beat Real Valladolid who have a 20.9% chance. In simulation wins, Real Valladolid upsets Real Sociedad by averaging 8.4 shots and 3.2 shots on goal. They average 1.9 goals in simulated victories vs just 0.4 in simulation losses. Overall, the average simulation score is Real Sociedad 1.5 to Real Valladolid 0.9.

  • Rochdale vs Portsmouth

    28 Feb 2020, 00:00 CET

    There is a 18.5% chance of a draw. In simulations where the game is not a draw Portsmouth, at 70.9%, are heavy favorites to beat Rochdale who have a 10.6% chance. In simulation wins, Rochdale upsets Portsmouth by averaging 5.8 shots and 2.7 shots on goal. They average 2.1 goals in simulated victories vs just 0.5 in simulation losses. Overall, the average simulation score is Portsmouth 2.4 to Rochdale 0.8.